I was on a call yesterday with an Outdoor Voices investor, talking about everything but Outdoor Voices—because who cares about Outdoor Voices these days—when someone texted me a pitch deck. It came from Interweave, a newish investment firm, and two partners, FightClub Management and Goodlife Clothing. Denver Rayburn, Interweave’s founder and C.E.O., previously worked at the well-known venture capital firm Norwest, which bought a stake in another, seemingly more successful activewear brand, Vuori, in 2019.
This deck was an attempt to secure financing—“as little as $4 million-$6 million”—to buy Outdoor Voices, the pioneering (and subsequently distressed) activewear brand that ended up being more style than substance. Founded by Tyler Haney and Matt McIntyre in 2012 or 2013, depending on whom you ask, its rise and influence on the way people dress was documented by dozens of outlets, including The New Yorker (ugh, I hated that piece)—and me, here, here, and here—as was its spectacular fall, which perfectly encapsulated the tension that develops when venture capitalists look for fast, profitable growth in apparel companies that require a longer timeline to develop. Not to mention the risk associated with investing in a company founded and run by someone with zero experience. Really, it’s the story of the last 20 years of startup culture. But especially in startups that sell apparel.
By the time Haney was ousted as C.E.O. in early 2020, Outdoor Voices was losing money on something like $74 million a year in gross sales, according to this deck. (Mindshare over market share!) Then, a few months later, during the pandemic, an entrepreneur named Ashley Merrill, C.E.O. of the direct-to-consumer pajama line Lunya, bought a majority stake in the brand through NaHCO3, the firm she started with her husband, Marc, one of the guys behind Tencent-owned Riot Games. Merrill and Haney played nice for a few months, and then Haney fully dislodged from the business.